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Holiday Coping with ADHD Children

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Holiday Coping with ADHD Children

"Tis the season to be jolly...," is one of the favorite Christmas Carols. Children are home from school, families will either visit loved ones or will have relative visit their home. There is lots of leisure time. It would seem that free time from work and school is ideal. Everyone is at home or visiting relatives, the fireplace is going, its a warm, cozy and loving period of time.

In reality, holidays and vacations, when schools are closed and the children have lots of free time at home, is extremely difficult for those parents with children who have ADHD. Rather than feeling "jolly," these parents feel anticipatory dread at the thought of their children being out of control. Of course, most families become somewhat apprehensive about what to do with the children when schools are closed.

A complicating factor for parents with ADHD children is that they too may suffer from the same disorder. It is easy for adults with ADHD to experience feeling overwhelmed and irritable and short tempered at this time of year. This is due to the fact that holiday time often feels disruptive to the familiar and well established daily routines.

Can Chaos be Avoided?

Even if you are a parent with ADHD and your children share the disorder, it is possible to reduce stress during holiday time. Here are some ideas.

Ideas for Reducing Problems:

1. It is important for all children to fit into a routine type of schedule. With ADHD this is even more important. During the Holidays, it is important for parents and children to adhere to a similar type of schedule that they are accustomed to during the work week.

2. Adhering to a regular schedule means continuing to have three meals per day and to eat the proper foods.

3. Maintaining structured activities are important for ADHD children so as to avoid leisure time that they find boring and an invitation to get into trouble. As much as possible, plans should be made with children and prior to the holidays as to the types of things they want to do.

4. When either visiting relative and friends or remaining at home to entertain guests, standards of good conduct should be reviewed with the children. It is always a good idea to have a list of rules and regulations posted on an erasure board with a column for rewards, in order to reinforce the behaviors that are agreed upon that are necessary. This may include everything from having the children make their beds to avoid yelling and getting "out of control."

5. Holiday does not mean a holiday from medication. If children are taking stimulant medication that is working to control Hyperactivity and improve focused attention, they will need that medication during the week off for Christmas vacation. They are being called upon to be social with visiting friends and relatives and to behave properly now even though they are not in school.

6. When making plans for the Holidays, it is not only the children who should be included. Too many marriages are strained because of the stress of handling ADHD children. I have read estimates that 23% of marriages end in divorce when there are children with this disorder. Therefore, it essential that parents communicate with one another and have their input with regard to planning.

7. In fact, it is important for parents to find time to be alone with one another during this season. Baby sitters or visiting relatives can and should be asked to supervise the kids while parents take an afternoon, evening or entire day off for one another.

8. All that is being suggested here includes parents with Adult ADHD. This is not an easy task and that is why spouses need to work jointly to accomplish the mission of getting through the season with a minimum of disruption.

9. Whether the parents have ADHD or not, it is important to find time to destress by getting plenty of exercise, meditating and finding some leisure time.

10. During the Holiday Season, children also need time for plenty of exercise. This holds true for all children but particularly for those with ADHD. Exercise helps them calm their impulsiveness and Hyperactivity.

11. Just as its necessary for parents to find time for one another and each for his or her self, it is also vital that each child be given private time. Children need attention, warmth and love and this is even more true for these disordered children. Discuss the options with the children but, however you do it, make certain they get lots of personal and positive attention.

This is just a partial list of tips for parents of ADHD children. Each parent and couple needs to find strategies that work for them.

Regardless of how you plan your holidays, the key word here is PLAN. Unstructured time is the enemy for all children and families. It is more of an enemy when you and your child have ADHD.

Have a wonderful Holiday Season, as free of stress as possible.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD.